Murkowski should have been more clear about vacation

Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2002

If you're a hunter about to wrap up a 22-year career in the U.S. Senate and launch yourself headlong into a four-year commitment as governor of the country's largest state -- one that's oil resource heavy, to boot -- it might not be such a bad idea to book yourself a little break down in south Texas with some of your oil producing huntin' buddies.

It'd be a nice way to work in a sanity break and solidify some advantageous connections at the same time.

Now, the ''fall'' season -- they can call it that because they never really do get ''winter'' down that way -- for those handsome Rio Grande gobblers runs Nov. 2 through Jan. 19. So, between Election Day, closing up shop in D.C. and launching the Juneau operation, the best time to work in this kind of trip is going to be post inauguration and pre-Christmas.

Texas only has a spring season for the more familiar Eastern wild turkey, by the way. Rios are one of five subspecies of wild turkey in North America. Others are the Gould's, Merriam's and the Florida wild turkey (sometimes called the Osceola).

The Rio is a hearty and adaptable bird that is native to the southcentral U.S., but they have been transplanted and have done well in the Pacific Northwest the past three decades or so. The birds inhabit country that is much more open than others of their ilk, roosting in scrub oak and shrubs in those southwest mountains up to elevations of 6,000 feet. They tend to roost in the highest tree in the area -- even if that ''tree'' happens to be an oil rig. True story.

All that is a long way of saying we can appreciate why Gov. Frank Murkowski may have chosen to spend his second week as governor of Alaska among the scrub oak instead of the Sitka spruce. We just wanted to know what it was he was up to, and the outing unnecessarily grew into a couple of news stories.

As a U.S. senator, Murkowski undoubtedly made dozens of such trips with little notice from his Alaska constituents -- especially if it came during the recess. We know Rep. Don Young is an avid turkey hunter as well, but his every outing doesn't become a news story.

But being Alaska's governor is a different kind of position. When the governor heads out the door, the people of the state deserve to know why. With a cabinet half-named, the state budget about to be unveiled and a good many of us on the edge of our collective seats awaiting the naming of Alaska's next U.S. senator, the governor's absence raises just a little interest.

When the office reports he is going to ''personal meetings'' that just begs a whole mess of questions about what sort of ''personal meetings'' he's holding. That's because it's just not telling it straight.

On the other hand, if he's heading out on a well-deserved vacation -- especially a hunting trip -- we're going to understand and it becomes a simple sentence or two within a story. ''The governor is going to Texas for a short vacation and to go hunting. The governor's chief of staff will release the state budget in his absence, and the governor plans to name his successor in the U.S. Senate when, uh, well, whenever he is good and ready, apparently.''

We don't have a problem with a guy taking a break to do a little hunting. But just like your buddies down south, governor, we'd appreciate it if you and your office make a practice of being straight shooters.

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Dec. 15

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